No matter how they change over time, depreciation rules allow building owners to maximise deductions for both residential or a commercial properties.

Often, investors considering purchasing an investment property will ask whether a commercial or a residential property will provide them with more deductions in the form of depreciation.

There are many important factors an investor needs to be aware of when making their choice between these two investment options.

Types of depreciation, how the rules change

Depreciation deductions apply to investment properties in two ways. Deductions can be claimed for the depreciation of the building structure known as a capital works deduction, and for the plant and equipment assets contained within the property.

In a commercial investment property, the commencement date the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) allows investors to claim the available capital works deductions, (structural items such as the bricks, building and roof) is the 20th of July, 1982. In residential properties, meanwhile, capital works can only be claimed for properties in which construction commenced after the 15th of September, 1987. Depending on the age and type of building, you can claim either 2.5 per cent or four per cent annually of the property’s historical construction cost for the capital works allowance.

The deductions for plant and equipment assets contained in both residential and commercial properties will depend on the individual effective lives of each asset as set by the ATO. However, the ATO does deem that some assets used in one commercial industry may depreciate at a higher rate than they would in a residential property. One example of an asset which does this is carpets, which will depreciate at a higher rate in restaurants and pubs than in retail office buildings or a residential dwelling.

In commercial properties, tenants can also claim

In commercial properties, the ATO makes allowances for the tenants to be able to claim some depreciation for assets.

Commercial tenants are able to claim depreciation on any fit-out they add from the starting date of their lease. This can include assets such as desks, blinds, shelving, carpet, vinyl, fire fighting equipment and security systems. If a commercial tenant removes items at the end of their tenancy and disposes of the item, they may also be able to claim the remaining depreciation for assets removed and scrapped when they vacate the property.

If the owner of the asset decides to on-sell items installed or keep them for future use, this does not apply. In cases where items are on-sold the tenant should always discuss this with their accountant, as this may have other tax implications.

It should also be noted that commercial building owners are also entitled to claim depreciation of assets installed and left behind by a previous tenant once a tenancy has ceased, so it is important to contact a quantity surveyor to ensure that each party makes their claim correctly.

Rules about claiming and occupancy of the property

Legislation from the ATO states that a residential property owner cannot claim depreciation for a building they themselves solely occupy; they can only claim depreciation on a building that is income producing.

In a commercial property, however, there are ways that the owner can occupy the investment property and still be able to claim depreciation. For example, if the property is purchased by a company or a trust, the owner may still be able to occupy the premises as a tenant and claim property depreciation.

It is also worth mentioning that the ownership structure can have an impact on the marginal tax rate when making a depreciation claim.

Consult with a depreciation expert

No matter what type of property an investor chooses to buy, it is recommended they contact a specialist quantity surveyor for further advice on the depreciation that may apply to their building.  A quantity surveyor will arrange a site inspection, take measurements and estimate the structural costs as well as assess what plant and equipment items the building contains. They will then provide a tax depreciation schedule outlining all of the depreciation deductions available for the property owner’s annual tax assessment.

To learn more about claiming depreciation, property investors can visit the BMT Tax Depreciation Property Investor’s page on their website by clicking here or the Commercial Property Depreciation page on their website by clicking here.